In part two of Sustainability Champions Jubilee coverage, we look at the accomplishments of HRH Prince Charles and how he has contributed to environmental matters throughout his lifetime. Now in his 74th year, Charles has only known an existence where his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, has been on the throne, and with that, he could have no better role model. At this weekend's Jubilee celebrations, he paid tribute to her 'lifetime of selfless service.' The Queen at 96 is a shining example of hard work and triumph over adversity. Having lived through the challenges of the second world war and ascended the throne at such a young age, through Elizabeth, Charles has learned what it is to persevere and champion causes that can impact the greater good.
Born on the 14th of November 1948, Charles Prince of Wales, along with being the heir apparent, is also Duke of Cornwall and Duke of Rothsay and is both the oldest and longest-serving heir apparent in British history. And since his father, Prince Philip, died on the 9th of April 2021, he also holds the title of Duke of Edinburgh. Over the last 50 years, he has used his unique position to champion action for a more sustainable future for all.
Over the years, HRH the Prince has given talks on and contributed to organic farming, the climate crisis, the pollution of our oceans and deforestation. His architectural proposals have sometimes brought criticism, but he has dramatically impacted sustainable design, global living standards, and our planet's state through personal projects, philanthropic work, and various charities. Here we'll look at the many sustainable causes that His Royal Highness has spoken about publicly and worked tirelessly towards, including his efforts to live in a positively impactful way.
HRH likes to lead the way for change in all areas of life, including the many steps he has taken over the years to live more sustainably. He strives to ensure that as much as possible of his office and domestic energy use comes from renewable sources by utilising items such as woodchip boilers, air-source heat pumps, solar panels, and "green" electricity. And the royal estate strives to ensure this continues across travel and other areas with indirect impacts, such as the services they use and the products they purchase. Above all, the estate aims at transparency with an annual review on its website that breaks down its work towards these goals.
Photo credit @Cherie Birk
Still, his position as heir apparent grants Charles plenty of real estate, much of which is centuries old. From Clarence House in London, Birkhall in Scotland and Highgrove in Gloucestershire, many properties, though beautiful structurally, will be challenging to maintain in an eco-friendly manner. But HRH has worked hard to manage them sustainably by introducing features such as a reed-bed sewage system at Highgrove and vetting all suppliers on their ethical goals. He also recycles all materials such as glass, paper, and metals and conducts reviews across his residences to ensure, in all other ways, as much as possible, they are carbon neutral.
Llwynywermod, the centuries-old property he bought in 2006 in Carmarthenshire, Wales, is a sustainable renovation of love. Over several years, this Grade ii listed building with its minimalist and rustic interiors has been refurbished by Charles to incorporate as many elements of sustainable living as possible using local builders and materials such as hemp plaster, sheep's wool, local timber, and locally milled fabrics in its interiors. Beautifully restored by Welsh traders adopting traditional methods, it has woodchip heating and a rainwater storage system. The royal pair also uses the gardens to grow vegetables and other produce.
Charles is passionate about organic farming, beginning the conversion of Duchy Home Farm at Highgrove over thirty years ago to an organic system. Producing a wide range of meat, fruits and cereals, it stands at the heart of his contribution to organic food and regularly educates on holistic farming principles and practices. The farm's vehicles run on biodiesel with a dairy powered by a solar thermal unit and no nitrogen-based fertilisers used on the land. The Waitrose Duchy Organic brand originated out of Duchy Home Farm, operates in partnership with Waitrose supermarkets and is carried in over 30 countries, regularly donating money towards the Prince's Charitable Fund.
Photo credit @ Markus Spiske
For over 40 years, the prince has highlighted the need for charitable support across education, young people, environmental sustainability, and the built environment. The Princes Charities, an umbrella group of 17 charities, raises over £100 million annually. His work across all these sectors has hugely impacted the environment and people's lives across the globe.
The built environment has seen Charles advocate passionately, voicing his concerns about the considerable number of extra homes needed to sustain our rapid population growth. Constantly striving for suitable solutions, Charles has backed several housing initiatives, such as Poundbury, his urban development near Dorchester. The town, built to strict guidelines, is a mixture of privately-owned and subsidised housing proposed as a model for urban development. Poundbury consists of 'human-scale' buildings that avoid high rises and roads designed to dissuade car use and promote a more pedestrianised way of living.
Charles also backed 2011's The Natural House. The two-story villa built in a traditional terraced-house form demonstrates the most effective solution for low energy, low carbon building. With its highly insulated building methods and materials such as Pvatex wood fibre and Therma fleece, The Natural House was designed to be reconfigured in various building types, from maisonettes to smaller flats to larger family homes. And the use of natural materials provides a healthy environment for its inhabitants and a long-lasting property that will stand the test of time due to the durable materials used to construct it.
Latterly the Prince has worked towards building 2,500 renewable energy eco-homes on the Duchy of Cornwall Estate to help tackle the lack of affordable housing around Faversham in Kent. The plan unveiled by the prince in 2021 will see a range of housing options from one to six beds, including solar panels in their renewable energy plans.
As well as campaigning for new eco-builds, the prince, a great lover of classical and artisanal design, is perhaps most recognised for his architectural efforts that respect our heritage and the design principles of the past. He said, "I would like to see architects working with artists and craftsmen, showing that pleasure and delight are returning to architecture after their long exile". He maintains that it is possible to respect old buildings and conventional scales without the guilt of preference for decorative and soft materials, sometimes meeting opposition from modern designers and developers. Charles has advocated for sustainable design that respects the harmonic principles of ancient architecture's classical shapes that reflect nature's order. In a speech at the 150th Anniversary of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1984, he explained that "it enables the full scope of our humanity to be fulfilled, on the physical, communal, cultural and spiritual levels." In 2014, he unveiled his '10 principles of sustainable design including some of the following points:
- Developments that respect the land
- Buildings that relate to human proportions
- Buildings that are harmonious in design with their neighbours
- Materials that draw on local materials and traditional styles
- Pedestrians as a focus
- Terraces rather than high rises
Charles maintains that his love of heritage is not a driver to keep us in the past; instead, he believes an environment of character and charm is more conducive to productive work.
Photo credit @ Rubben Hanssen
Though it is evident that HRH has worked tirelessly across the years for the good of the planet rather than for recognition, there can be no doubt that his efforts deserve some accolades. On the 3rd of November 2005, in Washington D.C., he was awarded the Vincent Scully Award for Architecture and Urbanism; considering the challenges and opposition he has faced against specific proposals, this must-have served as a welcome acknowledgement. In May 2017, His Royal Highness was awarded the GCC Global Leader of Change Award for his outstanding contribution to global environmental preservation for his passion and vision for a better future for Humanity. Further gratitude followed with a special Lifetime Achievement Award from G.Q. Magazine for Services to Philanthropy in 2018, where the prince took the opportunity to discuss the importance of sustainable fashion, urging us to consider the planet's finite resources and weigh them carefully against our ambitions.
Indeed, Charles has engaged in his own version of sustainable fashion, working with design duo Vin and Omi to produce a collection of eco-friendly clothing made from nettles grown on the royal grounds at his Gloucestershire home. Vin and Omi are pioneers of sustainable fashion advocating for innovative design techniques and textiles. The prince suggested that they use the royal nettles (once destined to be strimmed). With them, they created fabrics that resemble alpaca fleece for a rather regal fashion collaboration entitled 'Sting'.
Prince Charles recognises that he can make an impression on an industry whose very ethos can appear to go against sustainability. He appointed Federico Marchetti, founder, and former chairman of Yoox Net-a-porter, to head the Sustainable Markets Initiative's Task Force on Fashion (TFOF). TFOF urged brands to consider the environmental impact of their decisions at the supply chain's raw material level, also introducing traceable technology that can track the lifespan of a fashion item from production to resale.
In 2020 Marchetti and The Prince launched The Modern Artisan, a training program aimed at sustainable design principles. The pair teamed up again recently with Vogue's Editor Edward Enningful to map out plans for an international event in 2023 that will continue to promote the importance of green fashion.
Photo credit @ Vin and Omi Show 2018
BUSINESS & PHILANTHROPY
There are so many industries and businesses for which the prince has championed and stamped his royal seal. The Sustainable Markets Initiative (SMI), launched in 2019, is a U.K. program headed by His Royal Highness as a coordinated global effort to harness the powers of the private sector to accelerate the transition to a sustainable future. As part of that group, the 'Terra Carta' was set out in 2020 to outline ten areas to help businesses address the climate crisis and shape a greener recovery plan following the challenges of the pandemic.
At 2021's COP26 (the annual climate talks), The Prince announced that he was awarded the Terra Carta Seal to 45 global companies leading the way in energy transition. The prince has asked businesses to sign up for the charter to show formal recognition of 2050 as a cut-off point for setting net-zero standards. Companies included Amazon, Bank of America, Credit Suisse, H.P., IBM, and Unilever. These companies have documented plans to halve their greenhouse gas emissions by 2035 or reach net zero by 2050. They can use their position as industry leaders to demonstrate the means to achieve financial and sustainable success to all who aspire to theirs.
PUBLICATIONS & T.V.
The prince also has harnessed the power of T.V. to maximise engagement with his RE: T.V. channel, a content platform to showcase inspiring business innovations and ideas. Working with local and international partners across more than 30 projects in Asia, Africa, North America and Europe, the platform has highlighted innovations such as biodegradable plastics to community farming projects and organic water filtration.
The prince is no stranger to using various mediums to relay his ideas; his 1987 documentary 'A Vision of Britain' conveyed his architectural ideas. He also regularly delivers speeches on our oceans and the circular economy, contributes articles to publications, and has penned an array of books on music, travel, and art. One of his best-known writings is Harmony: A New Way of Looking at our World, published in 2010; the book addresses our most pressing modern challenges, from climate change to poverty.
We have only touched on some of the many areas and sustainable projects for which the prince has advocated. It is clear that his mission is not only for the good of us all but also a highly personal one. He believes, against the judgement of others, that by utilising our interconnectedness in a world that is now like one through technology, we can work together in more holistic and integrated approaches. And by working with rather than against nature, we will gain better outcomes on a social and economic level. Through speeches, articles, books, and films and engaging with Heads of State, business leaders and leaders in the scientific community, he continually strives to meet sustainability challenges, spread awareness, and make a significant difference.
As for his work in architecture, it must be heartening for him as a pioneer to see many of the new urban designs supported by traditional and post-modernist architects. Where once his suggestions were dismissed or regarded as incidental, many established, well-regarded professionals are now adopting them.
Following his mother's hard-work ethics, HRH has worked to find solutions that will enable us to preserve the assets upon which we all so much rely. Through his efforts, future generations can benefit from these natural resources and live comfortably in a world in which we have become accustomed and perhaps, far too often, have taken too much for granted. As The Queen begins to withdraw from service and we use the Jubilee as a chance to thank her, she must be heartened by the knowledge that she will be leaving the future of the monarchy in good hands.